Which Boxing Gloves to Buy?

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I get a lot of emails and messages asking for advice and pointers on where to get various gear. It is certainly not a problem for me, since I enjoy corresponding and talking about all things Martial Art/combatives/fighting oriented with interested people all day long. However, I end up writing the same things over and over, so I thought a series of blog articles that cover some of my basic pieces of general gear advice was in order. The first one up for discussion is what boxing gloves do I recommend?

For a good starter glove for someone just getting into the need for working striking skills, go to

http://www.kofightgear.com/sparring_gloves.htm

These are really well made gloves that are properly designed and hold up well under moderate use. You absolutely cannot beat the pricing.

For more dedicated work, or for someone who is getting deeper into a boxing paradigm, I prefer Thai-style gloves. There are a couple of reasons for that. Number one, most of the padding is concentrated over the knuckles where it actually matters. Mexican and American gloves tend to have the padding distributed over the whole glove, including areas that never see impact. Which is kind of goofy, in my opinion, but that is how it is. In reality, lighter Thai gloves are equivalent to heavier American gloves, generally by about two ounces. So a 12 oz Thai glove generally has the same knuckle padding as a 14 oz American or Mexican glove.

The second reason I prefer Thai gloves is that they typically are more snug and have minimal padding around the base of the hand, which makes entangled clinch work slightly easier and more functional. You can do that kind of work with “puffier” gloves, but it is not as convenient nor do you get the feel of the techniques to the same level.

There are a number of Thai brands, the most prominent of which are Fairtex and Twins. I myself prefer Twins. Their gloves seem to mold to my hand just right. Other people feel the exact same way about Fairtex. Twins has a tendency to be slightly cheaper, but a bit harder to find.  There are a number of places to get Thai gloves, including the big places like Ringside. I have had good luck here:

http://www.muaythaistuff.com

If you have more specific questions, feel free to hit me up.

Can Mindset Trump Skill?

Anytime someone in the tactical firearms community brings up the need for unarmed combatives, many people will inevitably bring up some objections. They range over a number of things, but generally come up with two major ones.

I dealt with one of those in an earlier blog post (http://www.iacombatives.com/2014/07/30/dont-limit-yourself-pt-1/). This time I will tackle the other oft-repeated objection.

That objection is essentially that learning some specific unarmed combative skill set is a waste of time since their individual combat/fighting mindset will see them through any H2H involved violent encounter.

There are a number of fallacies at work here. First of all, if this is what you are counting on, how do you know you have the needed mindset in the first place? Have you ever once demonstrated that you have it and have used it? If not, then why are you assuming it will just be there? It is like buying a Lottery ticket, then spending all your life savings because you “know” you have a winning ticket before it is announced. You are placing a huge bet with the highest stakes, and you don’t know what your cards say.

There is another problem here as well. Let’s say for the sake of the argument that you do have the needed mindset. Why can’t the attacker have as much if not more mindset than you? What if in addition to the initiative of starting the attack, he has developed a killer mindset that leaves yours in the dust. What will you do then? You are behind the curve in acting, you don’t have the physical skills, and he has a more devastating mindset. That is the definition of a “can’t win” scenario.

The third problem is one of logical equivalency. If we take the same logic at work here, and apply it to other things, we see the foolishness. “I don’t need to take any first aid classes. If something happens to my child, I will just have the mindset to get me through.” Or “I don’t need to have gone through medical school. Just let me operate on you. My mindset is awesome and I will know what to do when I cut you open.” Stupid, right? But, that is the exact same logic used in their attempt to dodge the idea of needing to know unarmed skills.

Another way of stating this logical fallacy that hits closer to home for some of those who object to training H2H methods  is “I don’t need to practice with my gun, or take instruction from a reputable teacher. When I am attacked, I will just pull out my gun and take care of business.” I guarantee you that if you used that statement in any online firearm discussion forum or on Facebook, you would be raked over the coals. But the same people who would excoriate you for the above statement will then in the next breath use the exact same argument to dismiss their need for H2H training. You cannot have it both ways. If we have a need as well as a responsibility to learn how to use a firearm in a self-defense situation, then the same need and responsibility is there in the realm of unarmed combatives.

However, the biggest fallacy lies elsewhere. This is the whole underlying idea that even if you have the right mindset, it will somehow, magically, give you the ability to defeat someone who has the initiative and more aggression and greater physical skills. Sorry to disabuse you of this, but mindset is not like spinach to Popeye. You don’t just ingest a swallow of it and are then able to thrash Brutus. It is not a magic pill or some special talisman. It cannot give you abilities that you don’t have in the first place. You are not the Hulk, and you need something more than anger to power you up.

Take a look at the following video. It is an excellent summation of everything I have written. Notice that the bigger, stronger, more physically intimidating person is completely aware of what is happening. He is not taken by surprise and has had time to work himself up to a fighting rage. He verbally engages the smaller and obviously younger opponent, and gives every indication he has prepped himself for the fight, and indeed, he even launches the first strike! Also notice that as he finds himself in an inferior position taking a beating, he does what many pro-mindset superiority people promote – he engages in “dirty tactics” and any action possible to win the fight, including striking to the face as he is being choked, and even slamming the smaller guy onto asphalt.  And watch where it gets him:

 

 

Not how absolutely nothing he did had any effect whatsoever. He unleashed every trick in the book, and had the double extra advantage of initiating the fight as well as having the superior physical attributes. Throughout, he exhibited a dedicated “mindset” to fight. And the results were a complete and total loss. The only reason he is even alive at the end of the video is solely because the smaller person decided not to do any more damage. That is it. Period. Superior skill set wins out. End of story. And this will be the same story in 98% of similar situations.

Edited to add: Something I forgot to mention earlier, but was pointed out by a buddy (thanks Phil!) – Also in the video, note how the bigger guy taps. In the sport/friendly training world, this is an acceptance of defeat and is a signal to the winner that he  has the submission hold on tight and has succeeded and can let go. In the Reality Based Self-Defense (RBSD) world, they will say that when you train with tapping, you will go on autopilot in the real world and let go and then get killed when the other guy continues the attack. This video shows what an utter load of crap that is. Tapping is always a conscious act in a training context and is not done by rote. Only someone who has never put any real time into serious pressure tested training would say something so completely unproven.

I am not advocating a lack of attention to developing combative mindset. Far from it. I would actually tell you that training a fighting H2H method against resisting opponents BUILDS true fighting mindset. I would also say that is the desired result. However, if you think mindset is something that during a fight will give you superpowers and allow you to prevail against a trained opponent, well; you may as well stick your nose back into a comic book because that is where that attitude belongs. Mindset comes about through demonstrated success, not in some fantasy that plays out in your head.

Take the time and spend a bit of energy to build a decent level of empty hand self-defense techniques that have been proven to work, and then add in some mindset. The result will work much better than trying to be lazy and take a cheap, mentally masturbatory shortcut.

Excellent Interview

The following is a terrific interview with two friends and good dudes who put a lot of legitimate sweat equity into training, Their insights and how they put things into perspective are just awesome to listen to. I wish I could articulate some of these concepts as well as they do.

 

 

 

One Small Thing A Day

One of the toughest things to remember when we are training to defend ourselves or our loved ones is that it is not a sprint, but a marathon.

It seems otherwise, because we want to get to that level of functionality where we can accomplish the above goals as fast as humanly possible. But realistically, while we need to get to work as soon as possible and do as much as we can, we can’t do it all because we only have so many hours in the day, and some skills and improvements only come over time. As an example, getting strong enough to not get bulled around by an attacker cannot come overnight. To build that level of strength, especially if we start at a place of being fairly weak requires effort over time, even if you are foolish enough to try to take some kind of personal enhancement drug like anabolic steroids.

So, we need to realize that we are in it for the long haul. Once we accept that, we can use different strategies to get better such as concentrating on important skills in blocks of time while maintaining the other skills.

One strategy that I have found is truly life altering is the paper a day analogy. This was first told to me over 30 years ago by one of my instructors, Paul Vunak. He explained it like this:

If every day, you laid a single piece of paper on your desk, you would not have very much after a week, or a few weeks, or even a few months, but at the end of a year, you would have almost a ream of paper, which is a significant amount. So if all we have time to train is three minutes, then fine. But do that three minutes every day without fail, and concentrate on a fundamental skill. Perhaps that skill would be shadowboxing. In that case, shadowbox for three minutes a day with 100000% focus and intent, and do that every day. Don’t look at it in a few weeks or months. Wait to check your progress after a year or so. By that time you will have racked hours of solid, useable practical training, and more importantly, you will have done it CONSISTENTLY. Recent studies in learning theory have led most experts to the conclusion that amount of practice is less important than how recently you trained. The skills are much closer to the surface when you spend a couple of minutes daily, rather than three hours a week but only done twice a week.

So if all the needed work seems daunting, and you have only a short time available, just pick something essential, and train it for that small amount of time available, but do it as close to daily as possible. I can truthfully say this concept probably benefited me more than almost any other single idea over the past 35 years.

Give it a shot.

Best Bang For The Buck

I have written in previous posts how we have so much to train for when we take a realistic appraisal of what is needed to truly be prepared in a self-defense scenario.

We have a lot to cover and we all struggle with finding the time to fit it all in as efficient a manner as we can. It is a daily effort.

Unfortunately, life often gets in the way of all our plans. For example, recently, I had a family medical situation occur that caused me to have to put most outside things on hold for six weeks to help take care of someone. My regular training plans were massively disrupted because overnight, I literally went to almost no free time. Trying to fit in all the usual items was not possible and I had to look to compromise. I had to get as much in of all the needed skill sets as possible in the limited time I had. What did I do? I focused almost entirely on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Why did I make that choice? For one, I actively teach it both in traveling seminars as well as multiple times a week and therefore need to stay on top of my game. However, even if I retired from teaching tomorrow, I would have made the same decision.

The most obvious initial answer is that it works as a method of defense against attackers. That is a well proven statement that is only argued by those with an agenda that has nothing to do with truth, or who are blinded by their own prejudices. If I find myself on the ground against an attacker or attackers, nothing prepares me with the essential actions like BJJ does. What a lot of people miss is that it also prepares me if I am still standing but entangled with an opponent. Many fighting authorities talk about the need to stay on your feet and not get taken to the ground. One of the best ways to ensure that can be accomplished is to be able to negotiate the entanglement through proper head, elbow, hip and foot position, good hand control, and keeping the level of your hips below your opponent. Not only can you practice those things standing, you can do a lot of the work horizontally on the ground and it transfers to the vertical plane. More added value while doing BJJ!

The next reason was that it is one of the finest ways of training your fitness to fight. Want to know that you can engage in combat on the street against someone for an extended time (because we do not know how long the attack will go on – seconds, minutes, hours, who knows?)? Well then, fight someone for long rounds on the mat. If you can do that in the training environment, then you most likely have a good chance to do so when you need to protect yourself.  Your cardio will stay at a combative level, and all that hands on work against another resisting partner (who often times may outweigh you by 50 or more pounds) will give you some functional strength work as well. What about mobility? Train jiu-jitsu for an hour or two and your joints and spine and hips will move as much as a dedicated mobility/flexibility workout.

BJJ also gives me a sporting outlet if I so choose. Rather than being an armchair quarterback, I prefer to be under stress and active. Even into middle age I like to keep my game as sharp as possible and nothing does that better than competing against an unknown opponent who has the same skill set as you. And competing in front of an audience or on an internet broadcast pay-per-view, or on a DVD gets you used to pressure. It is not exactly the same as a life or death struggle, but if you can’t perform in a non-threatening pressure situation, how are you ever going to know for sure you can perform when your life is on the line?

And another reason is that if you are fortunate to find the right BJJ School, you will have a social support circle unmatched anywhere else. There is something powerful in the bond you develop with your teammates that arises out of the shared effort of trying to make the other person tap time after time, and the ego crushing that comes from it. We all win, and we all lose, and in that understanding comes a new family. That is not something I ever found in a typical fitness gym, nor is it something I have ever experienced on a shooting range, outside of Craig Douglas’ ECQC course, which has more in common with a BJJ class than most typical handgun coursework.

And finally, it is the best stress relief I have ever found. When you are in the middle of a round of “rolling” (i.e. sparring), the only way to survive is to focus 100% on what is happening at that moment. Everything else in my life – job problems, financial issues, personal issues – has to be left outside when you step on the mat. It is like a perfect moving Zen meditation. The only thoughts are totally in the “now”.

Watch this match between two of the best super-heavyweights in the world. Notice how there is so much movement and energy and, yes, art, all happening at one time:

So, for all these reasons, I feel like BJJ is the single best bang for the buck activity you can do to become a better person, as well as a safer one. This is not to say that it is an excuse not to do other types of training, but if you find yourself in a place where you have limited time, look to BJJ for the best bang for the buck.